This video recently went viral as the story emerged that the pitcher who struck out the final batter to win his teams' way through to the State Title delayed his celebrations to console his old friend, whom he had just struck out.
I was recently part of a fantastic group of cricket people from across South Australia that came together to formulate some recommendations for the future of cricket in this state. One of our key recommendations was formed around the so-called "Spirit of Cricket".
Following a turbulent time for Australian cricket which is recovering from a volatile tour of South Africa that exploded with the widely publicised ball tampering scandal, the South Australian Cricket Association pleasingly got on the front foot in an attempt to influence a cultural change across all levels of cricket. Ultimately, I would suggest that almost all cricket players and supporters would prefer to see the game played hard on the field, but with a high level of respect for opponents and umpires combined with a high level of humility and honour.
Examples like the above baseball example epitomise respect, humility and honour. It is sad how often we need to look to young people to remind us of the way the world should be.
The SACA Working Group I was a part of threw around a large number of thoughts about how we could redefine the culture and Spirit of Cricket throughout the state, and while I cannot fully recall the final recommendations that were handed back, I have listed some of my favourite suggestions below.
1. Have both teams and umpires line up and shake hands before every match.
Cricket is one of the few sports where this does not happen. Time to make it happen.
2. All players to publicly sign a Code of Conduct, in front of the umpires, immediately prior to the first match of the season.
These documents should then be copied and posted in the clubrooms and changerooms as a reminder of their commitment to the Code. This can be role modelled by International and First Class players at the start of each series or season.
3. Both teams to applaud the opposition and umpires on and off the ground at the start and end each session/innings/day.
I was actually amazed to witness this happening regularly in Women's cricket. It should be done at all levels of cricket.
4. Zero tolerance for personal abuse on the field - empower umpires to stamp this out.
A red card system is being introduced next season, again this should be expanded across all levels of cricket.
5. International and First Class players need to role model positive behaviours and be severely reprimanded/punished for failing to do so.
Some degree of ball tampering occurs at almost all levels of cricket - this is usually passed down the line from those with experience at higher levels. Young cricketers sledge because they hear about their heroes doing it. Stamp it out at the top and you will cut off the pipeline of acceptance that makes it OK. While I personally disagree with the severity of the bans on Smith, Warner and Bancroft, i can understand why they were given harsh penalties by Cricket Australia - all cricket nations must now follow suit.
6. Catch people doing the right thing.
First class players, administrators and even opposition coaches should be able to either stop the game (for juniors or lower senior levels) or request the umpires to call together the teams at the next break (in more senior levels) to acknowledge exceptional acts in the spirit of the game. Examples might be withdrawing an appeal, a batsman walking, immediately accepting a decision that was clearly wrong etc. A small memento may be presented to the player(s) by the umpires to recognise their act.
These are just some suggestions, but don't you think the game would be better for it if we could have all of these as a standard component of the sport?